I'm planning a 4 - 5 week cycle tour in Europe this summer (last week of June and the whole of July).
The rough plan is to follow eurovelo no 5 from the North of France, via Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, South East France and northern Italy. I'm wondering if there're any fellow riders planning to do a similar route/or a part of it this summer.
Also, as it's my very first cycle tour, I'll totally appreciate your advice, tips, route/places to see suggestions etc ... pretty much anything!Thanks a lot!
I guess a good place to start would be to ask you what your number 1 question would be. If this is your first time cycle touring I guess my first piece of advice would be to not make the first mistake that a lot of people make, myself included, which is to try to stick too rigidly to the plan. Just go with the flow - stop where you want, let yourself be tempted to deviate from your path, and don't worry too much about how many kms you do per day. Where do you land - in Paris? If so, I guess you'll take the eurovelo 3 then onto eurovelo 5. Do you intend to go to Paris?
Thanks a lot for your post. About a week ago my main questions was: how well is eurovelo 5 actually signposted (if at all)? I think what worries me the most is finding my way round. And another question comes to mind here: what maps in general (publisher, scale) would you suggest as most useful? I think I'm slightly more relaxed about it now, and your advice of going with the flow assures me I should just chill out and enjoy the ride! ;-) Nevertheless, I'm pretty certain questions will be popping up more and more as the date of my departure approaches so I might be back here very regularly! But as I said any thoughts, please do say ...
I don't intend to go to Paris as my plan is to take a train from Edinburgh to Dover and then cross the channel by boat landing in either Calais or Dunkirk. I might meander a bit in the North of France and head for Belgium next. So I reckon it will be mostly (if not purely) eurovelo 5 however as you said I might deviate from my path :-)
Well, I can't tell you much about the Eurovelo route as I've never done it. But my guess is that it'll be well signposted. There are much smaller cycling routes in this area (in northern France), and you'd have no trouble following them. But if you do find that you lose a sign - so what? I mean, you'll have an idea of where you are, so just rejoin the path later. Suppose the route takes you through some town and you've lost the signs. Just cycle to the nearest village in the approximate direction you're supposed to go, then use your map to get to the village the Eurovelo takes you through, and from there you should be able to find your way back onto the path. As I said, don't worry too much! You're unlikely to get lost, and if you do you'll be able to put yourself back on track quickly. The biggest issue is making sure that you have accomodation for the night. Don't leave this too late. I mean, if you're looking for camp sites, don't start looking at 7pm as you may be 30 miles from the nearest one! I usually start my rides very early in the morning and start to look for camp sites at around 5ish, or even 4. It can help you to look for these before you go and mark them on your map. Talking of maps, you can buy a Eurovelo map from here: http://www.ecf.com/3188_1.
When I'm cycling I usually use two maps - one to give me an overall picture and one for detail. This year, for instance, I'm cycling in Greece starting in the north at Thessaloniki and going over the mountains towards the Peloponnese. I have a map of the whole of Greece on quite a large scale, and I'll also have a road map. On the large scale map, I mark things like campsites, and trace the route I intend to take with a marker pen (a route I probably won't stick rigidly to!) - and then I use the more detailed map to help me find my way when I'm actually there.
The main thing is to relax and enjoy yourself. The first time I went on a tour I cycled to John o'Groats from my house near Bath, and then cycled home again. I'd planned it in fine detail: on Day 1 I must make it to...on Day 2 I'm going to...and so on. That was silly. I wasn't couting on things like weather, how tired I might feel on any particular day, how I might want to linger in any place (no time!). These days, I have a much more relaxed attitude - if I don't make it to my destination, I can always take the train!
One thing you do have to be careful of on long bike rides is money and identification - but maybe I don't need to tell you that! Carry two credit cards - in case you lose one. On my ride to John o'Groats, one of the ATMs actually swallowed my only bank card! Fortunately, I was near Edinburugh where I have relatives, but it taught me a lesson! Carry plenty of cash too - just in case. Hide some notes wherever you can - in the insoles of your shoes, in a money belt, etc. Also, photocopy your passport and keep it in another place from your real passport. Avoid keeping any valuables in a handlebar bag - I nearly got pickpocketed in Barcelona like that! Now I keep my most important things on my person!
But don't worry - everything will be fine. Don't hesitate to ask more questions as they occur to you.
I recommend you not to put and plan to much in advance, as it comes sometimes in an other way.
Anyway, if you come to south of France, you are welcome at our place to stay (about 250 km south of Lyon), have a look on my profile.
All the best